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Episode One

Catherine Walsh – How to Build a Habitable World

So far, we know of only one place in the universe in which life has begun and thrived: Earth. This raises many questions around the prevalence of life in the universe, including consideration of the possibility that we are special, and that our Solar System had just the right conditions and ingredients for life to begin on our planet. Despite the persistent challenges in detecting extra-terrestrial life, there is now a wealth of evidence that rocky planets around other stars are common. In addition, everywhere we look in interstellar space, we find an abundance of key molecules, including water and organic molecules, that are needed to seed the surfaces of potentially habitable planets. In this podcast, Catherine Walsh discusses the recipe needed to build a habitable world, and present the current state-of-the-art in our quest to detect the ingredients needed to seed life on planets.

Further reading:

Kenneth R. Lang, The Life and Death of Stars (Massachussetts: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
Elizabeth Tasker, The Planet Factory: Exoplanets and the Search for a Second Earth (Bloomsbury Signma, 2017).
Lucas Ellerbroek, Planet Hunters: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life (Reaktion Books, 2017).
Andrew H. Knoll, Life on a Young Planet: The First Three Billion Years of Evolution on Earth (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Episode Two 

Dr James Souter – Asylum as Reparation: Rethinking Responsibilities to Refugees

What do Western states, such as the UK, owe to refugees? When politicians, policy-makers and publics recognise that they have responsibilities to refugees, they tend to view these responsibilities in terms of a humanitarian act of charity towards suffering outsiders. In this podcast, Dr James Souter argues that we should rethink this picture of our responsibilities to refugees, and recognise that Western states sometimes have a stronger obligation to offer asylum as a form of reparation for refugees whom they have uprooted as a result of their foreign policies.

Dr James Souter is a lecturer in the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds, and author of Asylum as Reparation: Refuge and Responsibility for the Harms of Displacement.

Further reading: 

Serena Parekh, No Refuge: Ethics and the Global Refugee Crisis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020).
David Owen, What Do We Owe to Refugees (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2020).
James Souter ‘The UK must fully recognise its special obligations towards Iraqi and Afghan Refugees,’ LSE British Politics and Policy Blog (October 2014).
James Souter, Asylum as Reparation: Refuge and Responsibility for the Harms of Displacement (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022).

Episode Three 

Dr Bethany Robinson – Behind the food on your plate: Farming as essential work

What does it mean to work in UK farming today? The image of farming was revitalised during the Covid-19 pandemic as essential for ensuring supply of a diverse array of food on our plates, from fresh fruit and vegetables to sugar. Yet the people involved in farming tend to be less diverse and many farms are facing a shortage in workers. After all, 84% of farm holders in England are men (DEFRA, 2016) and it is estimated that 98% of workers in seasonal agriculture are migrants (NFU, 2018). In this podcast, Dr Bethany Robertson will talk about where these patterns stem from and what the future of the sector looks like.

Further reading: 

R. Barbulescu, C. Vargas-Silva, B. Robertson, ‘Without freedom of a movement who will pick the fruit? UK in a Changing Europe,’ (2021).
B. Bathurst, Field Work: What Land Does to People & What People Do to Land (Profile Books, 2021).
T. Lang, Feeding Britain: Our Food Problems and How to Fix Them (Pelican Books, 2021).
B. Robertson, ‘Why Women are Taking Centre Field in Farming,’ The Conversation (2017).

Episode Four 

Ingo Cornils – What can German Science Fiction tell us about the future?

Since the turn of the millennium, German writers have increasingly engaged with the moral and ethical dilemmas created by scientific and technological advances. Building on the rich tradition of German Utopian Thought and German Science Fiction, they explore in thoughtful and accessible mind-experiments the dangers and limits of our new capabilities, and also the opportunities should we succeed in harnessing the potential inherent in these advances. Beneath a dystopian guise, German writers attempt ‘Zukunftsbewältigung’: valuable strategies that may help us cope with an uncertain but also unwritten future. As more of these texts become available in English translation, Dr Ingo Cornils explores what they can tell us about the future.

Further reading: 

Kurd Lasswitz, Two Planets (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1971).
Andreas Eschbach, The Hair Carpet Weavers (Penguin, 2020).
Juli Zeh, The Method (Penguin, 2014).
Marc-Uwe Kling, Qualityland (Orion, 2021).
Ingo Cornils, Beyond Tomorrow: German Science Fiction and Utopian Thought in the 20th and 21st Centuries (Rochester: Camden House, 2020).
Lars Schmeink and Ingo Cornils (eds.), New Perspectives on Contemporary German Science Fiction (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2022).

Episode Five 

Lucy Cheseldine – The Auroras of Autumn: Language, Landscape and an Autumnal Obsession

From Henry David Thoreau’s extensive list of leaf colours to Wallace Stevens’s ‘gusty emotions’, Lucy Cheseldine explores how Autumn shaped New England’s literary and cultural heritage. Cheseldine investigates what this relationship meant for the early formation of an American identity and suggests ways in which it continues to influence more contemporary regional writing.

Further reading: 

Donald Hall, Kicking the Leaves (London: Secker & Warburg, 1979).
Paul Harding, Enon (London: William Heinemann, 2015).
The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, 11th edition (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971).
The Poems of Edward Taylor, ed. Donald E. Stanford (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989).
The Poetry of Robert Frost, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1969).
Walden, The Writings of Henry D. Thoreau, 150th Anniversary editionn, ed. J. Lyden Shanley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1860, The 150th Anniversary Facsimile Edition, ed. Jason Stacy (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2009).